Wouldn’t you rather be known as a good landlord rather than being referred to as a “slumlord”? All too often, tenants are faced with landlords that focus on only collecting rent rather than maintaining a nice property. It’s always better to follow the golden rule and “treat others as you would like to be treated” and this applies to your tenants as well.
What does it mean to be a good landlord? One of the best things to do is simply be involved. Owning and/or running a property is more than just a hobby. In some cases, it can be as much work as a business. Keep this in mind if you’ve recently decided to take on the responsibilities of being a landlord.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re new to taking care of a larger property. There will be a learning curve, but life as a landlord is much easier if you have a solid grasp of what you’re doing ahead of time.
First, as a landlord, you can decide, in part, who you rent to. Perform your due diligence and make sure you are renting to tenants that have a positive rental history, meaning they cannot have had any evictions or have been late on rent payments more than once. You do still have to follow strict housing guidelines as to not be discriminatory in any way, but rental history is an easy way to weed out those who have exhibited the kind of behavior not exactly becoming of a tenant.
Second, be fair, but be stern. If you own a smaller property and have only five or six tenants, you might get that one tenant who always wants to pay his rent late due to any number of excuses. While it’s to your discretion how strict you are when it comes to late or partial payments, once you offer it, that person will likely expect the same treatment again in the future. To err on the side of safety, be firm up front with the date that payments are due and the consequences for if it’s paid late. This should be listed in the lease. When everyone knows the rules and expectations ahead of time, there are less surprises down the road. As far as payment options go, you should try to allow multiple methods for paying rent to make it easier for your tenants. Checks are becoming less common, so be open to electronic transfers. This is easy to set up, and if you have the same bank as your tenant, the funds will usually be available in your account automatically.
Third, get custom yard signs made in advance for any properties you want to rent out that have all of your contact information clearly visible. This will help you to keep your properties from being vacant for extended periods of time, which can mean a loss in profits. Have the yard signs list a few of the best features of the property and/or rental unit and your email or phone number, whichever you’ll be responding to faster. By having these signs ordered ahead of time, as soon as a property is vacant or you know when it will be vacant, you can start advertising.
Fourth, make sure you properly maintain the property. Some landlords choose to live on the property in which they rent out to others. Others don’t even live in the same state. Whatever your situation is, you should have regularly scheduled maintenance performed to make sure the property looks appealing to potential (and current) renters. Any mowing, trimming, or maintenance repairs should be taken care of right away. Also, give tenants contact information where they can report any maintenance issues of the property, such as broken gates, plumbing leaks, or anything that can cause inconvenience or injury to someone. If you live out of state, think about hiring a management company or a person who can keep a constant eye on the property.
Fifth, be present during your tenant’s first walk-through. Schedule a time when you or one of your representatives can be on hand when the tenants pick up their keys. This helps start the landlord/tenant relationship off to a good start, especially if the tenant has any immediate concerns. Think about ordering mailing labels with the new tenant’s address or provide a sheet for favorite restaurants in the area just to help make them feel more at home. Sometimes the smallest details matter most.
When you take pride in your property, it shows and will help secure loyal tenants who will then respond favorably. Be quick to fix any mistakes and notify tenants ahead of time when more extensive maintenance needs to be performed.
Friendly reminders are helpful for renters notorious for paying late and referral incentives are a good way to build up residency when you have open spaces available. Keeping open communication will help create good relationships for months and hopefully, years to come as a good landlord.